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Acne is a common problem in all skin tones. However, people with dark skin may have different concerns regarding acne treatment, including preventing post-acne dark spots.

According to a 2010 study, acne is more common in African American women than in Asian, Continental Indian, and Caucasian women.

Certain populations may also be at higher risk of residual dark spots called hyperpigmentation from acne.

A 2014 study of various groups with acne noted that over two-thirds of Black women experienced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from their acne and had significant concerns about it.

While the underlying processes that cause acne are the same for everyone, how acne and the treatments a person tries affect the skin may differ.

This article discusses how effective a range of natural treatments for acne on Black skin is and lists some products to consider. It also includes lifestyle changes a person can try and advice on when to see a doctor about acne.

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There are a variety of natural acne treatments a person can try that aim to moisturize the skin, kill bacteria, and reduce inflammation.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties, which may help kill the bacteria that contribute to inflammation and acne. A 2012 review states that its terpinen-4-ol content — an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compound — may be beneficial for acne.

A 2015 review and a 2017 pilot study found that tea tree oil could reduce acne spots in people with mild to moderate acne. Tea tree oil caused a similar number of side effects as other treatments, but study participants tolerated it well.

For Black skin, reducing inflammation is important as it is more likely to develop dark spots and keloid scars, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). Black skin is also at a higher risk of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation triggered by injuries to the skin.

However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that more research is needed to determine how effective tea tree oil is for acne.

A person may wish to test tea tree oil on a small area of skin before applying it to their acne, as the NCCIH warns it can cause contact dermatitis in some people.

A person can apply tea tree oil as a spot treatment or choose skin care products that contain tea tree oil.

Best tea tree oil: Natural Riches Organic Tea Tree Oil

Natural riches Organic Tea Tree Oil
  • Price: $14.50
  • Volume: 1 fluid ounce (fl oz)

Natural Riches recommends this organic tea tree oil for people with acne, athlete’s foot, ringworm, or nail fungus.

The company also recommends it to those with dandruff, dry skin, and body odor.

The company writes that this product is free of additives, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has certified this product as organic.

A person must mix this oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or coconut oil, before applying it to their skin.

Pros

  • some research suggests tea tree oil benefits acne
  • easy to apply
  • generally well tolerated

Cons

  • may cause skin reactions in some people
  • must be mixed with a carrier oil

A 1 fl oz bottle costs $14.50.

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most widely studied natural treatments for acne. It is an essential mineral that a person needs for several important functions, such as:

  • immune system
  • wound healing
  • growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence

Some 2014 research suggests that acne levels can be lower in people with acne.

A person can get zinc from their diet, but they can also take zinc supplements or apply topical zinc products to treat their acne.

Zinc may benefit acne because of its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce sebum production. It is not known to cause hyperpigmentation.

However, there is debate about whether oral or topical zinc is more effective for clearing acne.

Another 2014 study states that oral zinc sulfate can be more effective for severe acne than moderate or mild acne, but it can frequently cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The authors also write that it is not clear how effective topical zinc sulfate is for acne.

A person should speak with a doctor before taking a new supplement and never exceed the recommended dose.

A person should also talk with a doctor or dermatologist to make sure they choose the safest topical zinc treatment for their needs.

Best zinc supplement: NatureMade Zinc Supplements

Nature Made Zinc Supplements
  • Price: $4.49
  • Dose: 30 mg
  • Volume: 100 tablets

The company claims this zinc supplement can support the immune system and healthy skin.

It recommends a person take one tablet daily with food and water and claims this supplement does not contain artificial flavors, preservatives, or gluten.

The NatureMade Zinc Supplements include 30 mg of zinc per tablet.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that recommended daily zinc is 8 mg for adult females and 11 mg for adult males. The upper limit is 40 mg for adults.

As this supplement provides more than the recommended daily amount of zinc, it may be best suited for people who know their zinc levels are low. Taking too much zinc can be dangerous.

A person should work with a doctor to determine if they have a zinc deficiency and ensure zinc supplements are safe to take as they can interact with certain medications and cause side effects.

Pros

Cons

  • provides more than recommended daily amount
  • may cause side effects
  • can interact with medication

A 100-tablet bottle costs $4.49.

Citric acid

Citric acid, most prevalent in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, may help reduce acne lesions in some people. A 2016 study suggests that it may help kill certain acne bacteria.

While there is little research on whether citric acid can clear up acne, people can try applying lemon juice directly to pimples. As lemon juice is an acidic astringent, it may help to clear excess oil from the skin.

Lemon juice can cause phytophotodermatitis, a type of dermatitis that develops when certain plant compounds on a person’s skin react to sunlight. As such, it may be best for a person should apply citric acid products at night and wear sunscreen during the day.

Best affordable citric acid treatment: Iberia Lemon Juice

Iberia Lemon Juice
  • Price: $3.99
  • Volume: 32 fl oz

Lemon juice is very affordable and is available in supermarkets and online.

This Iberia Lemon Juice contains 187 teaspoon servings. A person can apply lemon juice to pimples and leave it on for a short time before washing it off.

A person can dilute lemon juice if they are concerned about skin irritation.

If skin irritation does occur, a person should stop using lemon juice on their acne and consult a doctor.

Pros

  • affordable
  • widely available
  • natural

Cons

  • may cause irritation
  • may cause sun sensitivity

A 32 fl oz bottle of lemon juice costs $3.99.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a plant that has thick, serrated leaves that contain a clear gel. People can use the gel directly on their skin if it is inflamed or irritated.

A 2015 study shows aloe vera has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. These may make it beneficial for people who have acne.

A person can combine aloe vera with other acne treatments, such as tretinoin. A 2014 study found that combining tretinoin with aloe vera gel was significantly more effective at reducing acne lesions than tretinoin alone.

Aloe is very gentle on the skin and is suitable for all skin types.

Best aloe vera cleanser: Aloderma Facial Cleanser

Aloderma Facial Cleanser
  • Price: $14.99
  • Volume: 3.5 oz

This aloe vera cleanser is suitable for sensitive skin and includes 76% fresh and organic aloe vera juice.

Aloederma writes that this cleanser removes dirt and excess oil and protects damaged skin. This can benefit people whose acne is made worse by oily skin.

According to the company, this product is USDA-certified organic, and it bottles its aloe vera products 12 hours after harvesting the aloe to ensure freshness. The company writes that this cleanser does not contain parabens, GMOs, sulfates, or alcohol. It is also vegan and cruelty-free.

Pros

  • suitable for sensitive skin
  • may reduce excess oil
  • gently cleans the skin
  • affordable

Cons

  • does not contain 100% aloe vera

A person can buy a 3.5 oz tube of the Aloderma Facial Cleanser for $14.99.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests the following lifestyle remedies to fight acne in skin of color:

  • Treat acne at the earliest possible sign to help prevent dark spots.
  • Use hair oil only in the middle of the scalp. Hair oils can cause acne on the hairline and forehead.
  • Do not touch the hair and then touch the face since this can get hair oil on the skin, clogging pores.
  • Avoid skin care products containing heavy oils or shea butter on acne-prone areas.
  • Choose oil-free skin products marked as “noncomedogenic” since they are less likely to clog pores.
  • Avoid popping pimples, as this can worsen inflammation and cause scarring and dark spots.
  • Use only noncomedogenic make-up.
  • Frequently wash scarves, hats, and anything else that comes into contact with the face or hair.

Use sunscreen

Dark spots can appear on the skin for many reasons. People with dark skin often notice these spots after a minor skin injury, such as an acne spot or other skin irritation.

Applying sunscreen to the skin may prevent dark spots from appearing or worsening. Limiting sun damage can also help reduce a person’s risk of skin cancer.

Sunscreen is available in many grocery stores, drug stores, and online.

Some of the best acne treatments are not “natural” and rely on specific substances that scientists have extensively studied and tested.

These treatments are generally safe and effective, so a person can consider trying them if natural methods do not work.

However, some medical treatments can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. For some, such as the topical retinoids, it is best to apply them at night, as the sun inactivates them. Always wear sunscreen when using these products.

The AAD suggests that acne products containing the following ingredients are the most effective on dark skin:

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide can help kill the bacteria that contribute to acne. While it does not bleach dark skin, it can bleach clothing and other fabrics.

Benzoyl peroxide can irritate or dry out the skin, so it is best to start with a 2.5% solution or a 4% wash and use it every other day, gradually working up to daily use with a more concentrated solution, if necessary. The chest and back usually tolerate higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide than the face.

Products containing benzoyl peroxide are available in pharmacies and online.

Learn more about benzoyl peroxide for acne.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid can help unclog pores and prevent new acne from forming.

The peeling function of salicylic acid may also help with melasma, a common skin problem that causes discoloration.

People can buy salicylic acid products for acne at their local drugstore or online.

Learn more about salicylic acid for acne.

Retinoids

Retinoids, such as retinol and tretinoin, are chemicals that derive from vitamin A. They can help fight inflammation and unclog pores, preventing acne. Retinoids may also help prevent signs of aging.

Like other medical treatments, retinoids can irritate the skin. A doctor can help determine what concentration is best for each person.

Retinoids prevent acne and are not suitable for treating spots. It may take several months to see the full effect of retinoids.

People should wear sunscreen when using topical retinoids since they make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Look for products containing retinoids at the pharmacy or online.

Learn more about retinoids.

One myth suggests that cocoa butter can help even out black skin. The AAD emphasizes that there is no evidence to support this claim. There is, however, evidence that cocoa butter can clog pores, especially on the face, back and chest.

Skin lightening products may help fade dark spots, but they can also damage the skin and cause irritation.

However, skin lightening products may contain steroids or mercury, which are dangerous. They may also cause rashes, acne, or even worsen dark spots. A person should talk with a doctor before trying a skin lightener.

Skin care products using natural ingredients may be gentler on the skin than synthetic ingredients. This may make them better for people with irritated or sensitive skin, and they may produce fewer side effects.

That said, a person should always check with a doctor before trying a new skin care product for acne to ensure it is safe for them and will not worsen their acne.

Products made from natural ingredients may also have less impact on the environment. A person can consider brands that use sustainable manufacturing processes, organic ingredients, and recyclable packaging.

If a person’s acne does not clear after trying natural remedies or lifestyle changes, they should consider seeing a doctor to get advice on acne medication.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests a person sees a doctor or dermatologist if they have:

  • severe acne
  • acne that does not clear
  • scarring
  • hyperpigmentation

A person should see a doctor if they are showing signs of infection and if their acne affects their mental health.

Below are answers to the top frequently asked questions about natural treatments for acne.

Which herb is best for acne?

Many plants can reduce the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Researchers write that mountain grape root and tea tree oil may be effective in mild to moderate acne.

A 2018 study found that people may see an improvement in their acne when combining aloe vera, propolis, and tea tree oil.

However, research is limited overall.

A person should talk with a doctor before trying new treatments for acne and stop using herbal treatments if they develop a skin reaction.

Is turmeric good for acne?

A 2017 article states that curcumin, a substance present in turmeric, may help manage oxidative and inflammatory conditions.

In a 2019 animal study, authors noted improved antibacterial activity when using curcumin and lauric acid gel to treat inflammatory skin conditions.

However, a 2015 study considers curcumin as an allergen and states that this may cause contact dermatitis in some people.

A person should get advice from a doctor before using turmeric for acne.

What drinks can help with acne?

There is limited reputable research regarding whether specific drinks can improve acne.

However, a 30-day study reviewed the effects of drinking 68 oz of water per day. It found that the study participants experienced an improvement in their skin hydration. This may be helpful for people with acne as dry skin may increase oil production, which can cause acne or make existing acne worse.

Natural remedies for acne in Black skin may work well for mild acne, especially with lifestyle remedies.

While there is data that certain natural remedies, such as tea tree oil, may be helpful for acne, natural treatments should not replace the advice of a doctor or the use of established acne medication.

Untreated acne is more likely to leave scars and dark spots. If natural remedies do not work, a person can consult a dermatologist to help them find the best solution.